Officials in Ecuador pledged on Monday to improve the collection of corpses after delays related to the Chinese coronavirus forced some families to keep their loved ones’ bodies in their homes for days after they passed away.
Residents of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city, are up in arms after being unable to dispose of their relatives’ bodies because of strict quarantine and curfew measures aimed at curbing the spread of the disease. Last week, authorities confirmed they had removed 100 corpses from homes across the city.
By Tuesday, Ecuador recorded 1,966 cases of the virus and 62 deaths directly related to the coronavirus, the highest proportional tally in Latin America. According to a Reuters witness, one man who collapsed and died as he was waiting in line for groceries was left for hours under a blue plastic sheet on the sidewalk.
Footage broadcast by local media has shown long queues outside cemeteries as people sought to bury their relatives. Sebastian Barahona, the coordinator of the National Federation of Funeral Homes, told the news agency that demand in March was five times higher than normal.
“The response capacity is not prepared for what this emergency requires,” he explained.
Semana reports that the situation in Ecuador is so serious that authorities have already ordered the construction of a mass communal grave capable of holding up to 300 bodies. Government minister María Paula Romo also confirmed that a nationwide lockdown will last until April 5th.
“We have confirmed our decision to suspend normal working hours until 5th April. Up until now, the suspension was until March 31,” Romo told the newspaper El Comercio. “Throughout the week we will assess whether to prolong this measure on whether it has made difference by province, by region, and by city. At the rate things are going, it does not seem an easy decision to do that.”
“Many funeral homes or those who were providing these services are not providing them or prefer that the Police or the Armed Forces handle it for fear that they are cases of coronavirus infections,” she added.
Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner on Monday announced the creation of a task force aimed at ensuring the dignified collection and burial of the dead.
“The government’s intention is that everyone who passes away these days in Guayaquil, not just those who have died from the coronavirus, can have a dignified burial,” he told reporters.